Everyone loves pets, and our world would not be the same without our canine companions. But sometimes things go wrong. Dogs bite. People get hurt. Let's talk about dog related injuries:
In Washington state the owner of a dog is strictly liable for bites. That means, the owner is responsible if their dog bites someone, if the injured person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, and the injured person did not provoke the dog. (RCW 16.08.040) This is true whether or not the owner knew the dog was dangerous. It doesn't matter if the dog had never bitten or acted aggressive before. Here are some examples:
If you are walking on the sidewalk and a dog runs up and bites you, the owner can be held responsible
If you are in the owner's home and his dog bites you, the owner is responsible.
If you walk into the owner's yard without permission and her dog bites you, the owner is not responsible
If you hit or otherwise attack the dog, and it bites you, the owner is not responsible
Oregon's One Bite Law
There is no specific law in Oregon relating to dog bites. The owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog only if the owner knows or has reason to know their pet has dangerous tendencies. Otherwise, the dog gets "one free bite" (After the one free bite the owner is assumed to know of the dog's dangerous nature).
How can you find out if a dog has dangerous tendencies? While asking the mail carrier would be a good start, it would also be helpful to talk to neighbors. You can also check with the county or the police department to see if there are any reports about the particular dog.
An owner can also be held liable for their dog's action if the owner is negligent (careless). Examples of owner negligence would be:
Unleashing the dog in public or letting it run loose in public places
Bringing your aggressive or anxious dog into close proximity of the public
Confining the dog with an inadequate fence or leash which fails, letting the dog loose
Other types of dog-related injuries
Although less common, innocent parties can be injured in other ways besides being bitten. Some examples:
A driver is injured when a dog runs into the road, and he crashes his car trying to avoid the dog
A pedestrian slips on dog droppings
A person is injured while trying to escape a dog running toward her
A person is hit or knocked down by a dog
These more unusual situations require the expertise of an attorney to determine whether you have a case against the dog owner.
What should I do if I get bitten or attacked by a dog?
1. Try to identify the owner. Collect their name/address/phone number and if possible the name of their veterinarian. Ask them to provide you with proof that the dog is current on vaccines. The dog owner may also have homeowners' or renters' insurance which will cover your medical bills.
If the dog is wild or appears ill, contact animal control immediately. They may be able to catch the dog and test it for diseases, such as rabies. This will also protect others from being bitten.
2. Get medical attention. This is especially important for wounds that bleed heavily or will not stop bleeding, for deep punctures, or for wounds that may need stitches. If you have any reason to think the dog was rabid or ill, no matter how mild the injury, seek medical attention. Untreated dog bites can lead to serious bacterial infections, or rabies, if the dog is infected.
3. Consult an attorney. This is especially true if you have medical bills, if the owner is not cooperating or cannot be found, or if you are disfigured or scarred by the dog-related injuries. An attorney will be familiar with any applicable local and state laws related to your situation. He has the resources and know-how to conduct a thorough investigation and make sure that you are fairly compensated. This is especially true if you have a scar.
Attorney Jim Sellers is an experienced advocate for victims of owner negligence and dog bites. He is familiar with local and state laws that protect injured parties. Call right away for a free consultation if you are injured!